Homeland Security official describes widespread 'fraudulent' families at border

Homeland Security official describes widespread 'fraudulent' families at border
© Greg Nash

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told Congress Tuesday that 15 percent of migrant families screened at the border were found to be misrepresenting minors as their own children in order to bolster their asylum claims.

Families with minors are released from detention to shelters more quickly because minors are not allowed to be held in custody for more than 20 days under a 1997 court settlement.

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McAleenan told Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (D-Ill.) that a DNA-testing pilot program found that 17 out of 109 people tested were found to be misrepresenting a minor they were detained with as a blood relation.

“Seventeen admitted or were tested out as fraudulent,” McAleenan testified. “This is a 15 percent return.”

McAleenan also said that special agents with forensic interview skills interviewed 1,568 family unites and found that 242 families “were fraudulent.”

“I don’t think we can ignore these numbers,” he said.

McAleenan clarified that the statistics don’t necessarily mean that 15 percent of all families trying to cross the border are misrepresenting unrelated minors as blood-related offspring.

He said the families tested were targeted referrals by border patrol agents who were suspicious about certain migrants borrowing or renting children to get into the United States more easily.

Durbin, an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, acknowledged there was “no excuse” for misrepresenting children to fraudulently gain asylum.

“We should not ignore them. There is no excuse, none, for mispresenting a child as your own in an effort to defraud anyone in our country or any other place,” Durbin said. “But this notion that we can somehow dismiss the 85 percent of children because some are abusing that representation of parental responsibility troubles me greatly.”

Earlier in the hearing, McAleenan said border investigators found a 51-year-old migrant paid $80 to rent a 6-month-old child to get across the border.

“We’re very concerned about the incidents of fraud. We think it’s a huge part of this cycle, and it’s caused by the fact that they know if they come as a family they’ll get special treatment at the border,” he testified.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord MORE (R-Iowa) then introduced into the record four media reports about children being smuggled or rented out to help migrants get across the border. He cited an Associated Press article about a Guatemalan woman who said she rented out or recycled children 13 times, receiving payments of $1,500 per child.